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Truckers' protest reflects rise in 'disruption politics,' increasing polarization, say political insiders – The Hill Times



The “Freedom Convoy,” which has paralyzed the nation’s capital for more than a week, could eventually be a political gift for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, say some political insiders, but others warn the rise in “disruption politics” could turn into an “Occupy Parliament Hill movement” and become a major headache for the prime minister and the government.

“Trudeau knows that these guys aren’t going to stay there forever,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, in a Feb. 1 interview. “There’s a time limit on this: I mean, the two things that they did that were silly, was they did it on a weekend when none of the Ottawa press gallery is there, and Ottawa’s downtown is shut down pretty much anyway. And the second thing they did was they picked one of the coldest periods that we’re going to get this winter to do it, with another big snowstorm on the way. So, I’d say time and the weather are on Trudeau’s side.”

For more than a week, hundreds of protesters, including some truckers, dubbing themselves the “Freedom Convoy 2022” have been protesting in downtown Ottawa against vaccines mandates. Some of them are anti-vaxxers, others are protesting against what they interpret as government infringing on their liberties by making vaccines mandatory to cross the Canada-U.S. border. Many of them are protesting the Liberal government in general, expressing particular disdain for the prime minister himself. On the weekend, there were an estimated 5,000 protesters in Ottawa.

These protests started in reaction to an existing vaccine mandate for all who wanted to cross the border from the United States into Canada. Previously, truckers had been given an exemption from this requirement. On Jan. 15, that exemption was no more, and all truckers entering into Canada from the United States now need to be vaccinated in order to avoid a 14-day quarantine. The announcement that this was happening was made in November.

Trucking is the No. 1 occupation amongst Canadian men, and according to Statistics Canada, employs 303,000 men in the country. Most Canadian truckers are vaccinated and many have denounced the demonstration.

The protests started in Ottawa on the last weekend of January when the temperatures were hitting below 20 degrees Celsius before the windchill factor. Considering the frigid cold weather and that many of these protesters must be missing work, it remains to be seen how long this can continue.

Thousands of protesters have blocked downtown Ottawa against the government’s COVID-19 mandate. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

According to a recent poll, the demonstration is not supported by Canadians. An Abacus Data poll released on Feb. 3 suggested that 68 per cent said that they have “very little in common with how the protesters in Ottawa see things,” and 32 per cent said they “have a lot in common.”

The same poll also suggested that 57 per cent of the respondents said that the protest came off as “offensive and inappropriate,” compared to 43 per cent who described it as “respectful and appropriate.”

According to Health Canada, about 80 per cent of Canadians are fully vaccinated and an overwhelming majority of the population is in support of vaccination against COVID-19.

The federal Liberals used this wedge successfully against the Conservatives in the last federal election which paved the way for them to win another minority government. Even still, a number of Conservative MPs are supporting the demonstration and some Saskatchewan MPs, including caucus chair Kevin Waugh (Saskatoon Grasswood, Sask.) and former party leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.), took pictures with the trucks last week.

Soon after the demonstration started on Saturday, Jan. 29, complaints emerged about some protesters desecrating national monuments, stealing food from a homeless shelter and some also hurling death threats at Trudeau.

Some also used Nazi symbols on protest signs and waved Nazi flags, in addition to the more common signs bearing divisive and inflammatory rhetoric against the prime minister and the Liberal government.

In a press conference last week, Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) doubled down and vowed not to back down from his vaccine policy.

“I want to be very clear: we are not intimidated by those who hurl abuse at small business workers and steal food from the homeless,” Trudeau said about the protesters on Jan. 31. “We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. We won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism, or dishonour the memory of our veterans.”

Trudeau encouraged those protesters who disagreed with the divisive tactics of the protesters to distance themselves or speak up against those who had infiltrated their movement.

“To anyone who joined the convoy but is rightly uncomfortable with the symbols of hatred and division on display: join with your fellow Canadians, be courageous, and speak out,” Trudeau said. “Do not stand for, or with, intolerance and hate.”

In the House of Commons, Trudeau said on Feb. 2, that the government was working with law enforcement agencies to put an end to the protest which was becoming “illegal.”

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly did not rule out the possibility of seeking support from the military to deal with this situation.

Meanwhile, Bricker said the situation is especially tricky for the Conservatives. Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.), who was dumped by his caucus last week as leader, was trying to balance between his base, which is largely located in Western Canada, and the suburban swing voters, a key demographic which the party needs to win elections. So far, the party has been unsuccessful, he said. This delicate balance requires Conservatives to not let their base move to the populist People’s Party of Canada or some other right-of-centre party like the Maverick Party, Bricker added.

Ipsos Public Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker says that the ongoing protest in Ottawa is helpful for the Liberals but has created a tricky situation for the Conservatives. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

The People’s Party was not able to win any seats, but won about 850,000 votes nationally in the last federal election. In contrast, the left-leaning Green Party, which has been around for years, won two seats with 397,000 votes. According to some estimates, the vote split between the Conservatives and Peoples’ Party caused the Conservatives to lose 20 seats across the country.

Bricker said that the trucking protest issue will not be top of mind in a few weeks as Ontario business establishments like restaurants and gyms have already opened up at 50 per cent capacity and things are expected to get better in the coming days.

Nik Nanos, chief data scientist for Nanos Research, described the Ottawa protests as a new escalation of the disruption politics that Canadians first saw in the last federal election. In a number of the Liberal Party’s campaign events, some protesters showed up to demonstrate against the vaccine mandates. In some incidents, they threw gravel at the prime minister and made particularly nasty comments about Trudeau and his family. Nanos said that Trudeau is a “polarizing figure” and the current situation could become challenging for him as it puts a spotlight on him. Nanos said it could make him look weak for not intervening or doing anything. He said that whether Canadians are for or against the COVID vaccines, they are tired of the pandemic and this is just another frustration point for them.

“This is a new, popular, anti-establishment front that has been formed, that is very diverse, in terms of what the drivers are [demanding]; everything from being concerned about vaccinations, to being concerned about big government imposing its will on individuals, through to concern about Ottawa … being out of touch with Canadians and not serving Canada,” said Nanos. “This is a new anti-establishment popular front [that] should not be dismissed, and it’s not going away.”

Nanos said that this situation could be a political windfall for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South, B.C.) whose popularity numbers have already gone up. Nanos said Canadians disappointed with the Liberals and Conservatives could park their support with the NDP.

According to a Nanos poll released Jan. 28, the Conservatives and the Liberals were tied in a statistical dead heat at 30.4 per cent and 29.9 per cent, respectively. The NDP had the support of 20.7 per cent, the People’s Party of Canada at 6.7 per cent and the Greens at 5.8 per cent.

“It’s not a slam dunk for Justin Trudeau,” said Nanos. “It does mobilize progressive voters, but I don’t think we should equate progressive voters being mobilized with them voting for Justin Trudeau. And this is why Jagmeet Singh is well positioned at this time.”

He warned that the Liberals should be worried as this could turn into an “Occupy Ottawa movement” where truckers take turns and occupy as much of the Parliamentary Precinct as possible. He noted that the truckers don’t need thousands of trucks for this, and even a hundred trucks could bring the city to a standstill. Meanwhile, Nanos said Canadians want the government to come up with a long-term solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would hazard to say that average Canadians are still frustrated with a pandemic, want proactive action from the federal party leaders to have a path forward,” said Nanos. “And what this does is this makes voters even grumpier, because basically, it looks like a capital that’s gripped in indecision and inaction that is hostage to truckers.”

The Hill Times

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It's all about the stats: What politics and baseball have in common –



In his final column as host of The House, Chris Hall talks with three political strategists to examine the intersection between two of his favourite subjects: politics and baseball.

There’s a saying that life imitates art. But for my money, there’s another comparison that’s equally true. Politics imitates baseball.

Here’s the pitch.

Politics and baseball are filled with tradition. There are a lot of rules; some are written, and some really just time-honoured traditions. 

Today, both are becoming more reliant on modern-day metrics — data and statistics — to attract new supporters, and to win.

In baseball, those stats help managers decide when to deploy the infield shift, or put an extra person in the outfield to prevent the best hitters from getting on base.

In politics, the numbers tell campaign managers which ridings to visit and which campaign promise to promote. They know how many swing votes are available in each voting district. Parties keep data banks that tell them which address is home to a supporter, and which is home to a voter who might be convinced to join their side.

So it’s not surprising that many politicians and their strategists are also baseball fans. 

The House’s politics (and baseball) panel, left to right: Anne McGrath, national director for the NDP, Jason Lietaer, president of Enterprise Canada and the former Conservative strategist; and Zita Astravas, former Liberal spokesperson and current chief of staff to Bill Blair. (Submitted by Jason Lietaer and Zita Astravas, Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

There is a powerful connection between running the bases and running a campaign, according to Anne McGrath.

“I think that all campaigns are, or strive to be, data-driven now,” said McGrath, the NDP’s national director and a veteran of both federal and provincial campaigns.

“It is the key in politics. You have to find the people who support you and get them out to vote. So you have to know who they are and know where they are and know what they care about.”

McGrath was a die-hard fan of the Montreal Expos. The club moved years ago to Washington and she’s still not over it. But McGrath sees a lesson in the move, about the importance of not just maintaining a fan base, but finding ways to get new ones to the ballpark.

“You do have to know who your base is and you have to expand it. You have to bring more people in. And you have to do it in a way that is attentive to changing demographics and changing ways of communicating with people and getting people interested and involved and motivated,” she explained.

CBC News: The House9:32Take me out to the poll game

In one of his last shows, host Chris Hall combines two of his passions: baseball and politics. He speaks with three fellow baseball diehards who happen to be political insiders: Liberal staffer Zita Astravas, Conservative strategist Jason Lietaer and NDP national director Anne McGrath.

Jason Lietaer grew up reading baseball box scores and waiting impatiently for the weekend newspaper that included the stats for every American League player, including members of the hometown Toronto Blue Jays.

Lietaer, a former Conservative campaign strategist who now runs the government-relations firm Enterprise Canada, is a believer in mining data for insights into a player or into a campaign. But just gathering that data doesn’t guarantee victory in either baseball or politics, he said.

Sometimes the bottom of the ninth happens a month before the game even starts.– Jason Lietaer

The players on the field, or the candidates knocking on doors continue to play a key role in determining whether you win or lose. Plus, it’s important to interpret that data correctly

“And I would say in politics, we’re still sort of struggling with some of that,” Lietaer said. “You know, is there only one or two ways to read the data? How important is digital communication? How important is this piece of information?”

The Toronto Blue Jays Alejandro Kirk hits a single during a game against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto on June 28, 2022. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press)

A key lesson is figuring out what the statistics are telling you before the end of the game or before election night, to better adapt to the changing circumstances and give your team a better chance at victory.

“Sometimes you don’t realize you’re winning or losing an election [until] you’ve already won or lost it,” he said.

“Sometimes the bottom of the ninth happens a month before the game even starts.”

The politics and baseball panel was one of the last interviews Chris Hall did as the host of The House. He retired from CBC in June 2022. CBC Radio created this ‘farewell’ baseball card to mark the occasion. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Zita Astravas is another political insider who spends a lot of time watching baseball. She’s worked on both federal and Ontario Liberal campaigns and is now chief of staff to Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair.

“I think one of the things that drew me to politics and baseball is statistics, and I think it’s one of the things that you can find common ground in,” she said.

“You do it every day on a political campaign: you look at different ridings and craft who your best candidates are, what your target ridings are, just as you do on different players.”

It’s all about finding a hidden meaning in the numbers, an edge to exploit on the field or in the hustings.

It’s all in the hopes of answering the key question, McGrath says: “Did we hit it out of the park?”

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Politics Report: The People Asked for Time and Now They Get Time Because What They Really Wanted Was Time – Voice of San Diego



Early Monday, our Lisa Halverstadt learned that the City Council was not going to vote on a proposed settlement over 101 Ash St. after all. Serves us right for expecting a climax in any long-running San Diego political affair. 

Maybe the settlement didn’t have the five votes it needed, maybe some new information materialized, or maybe the mayor’s explanation that they heard the public’s call that it needed more time to process the terms of the agreement was all there was too it. That last explanation would perhaps be the most exciting, since it would mark the first time in city history that a proceduralist consideration wasn’t just poorly disguised cover for some substantive difference of opinion. 

Nonetheless, former Mayor Kevin Faulconer jumped on KUSI Thursday to say he was happy that Mayor Todd Gloria had decided to delay the vote for a month until the public had ample time to fully absorb the particulars of a settlement that would have ended some city lawsuits, continue others, and lead to the acquisition of two massive pieces of downtown real estate for a City Hall redevelopment that hasn’t been planned and won’t be within the next month. The public would also then have enough time to grok the city attorney’s dissenting opinion on the settlement, or both legal and policy reasons. 

“I think you have to make sure that any proposed settlement is going to be a benefit to the city, a benefit to taxpayers and it’s not something that should be rushed,” he said. “I think we’ll hear a lot more about that in the coming months.” 

Clearly, now that we’ve made the difficult, brave decision not to rush the matter, ignoring the screaming hordes from the pro-rush caucus, we don’t need to be in any hurry to articulate whether the deal actually is a benefit to the city and taxpayers or not. The important thing is that now we have time.  

Brief CAP Opposition from the Cap’s Top Champion 

Back in Gloria’s first stint in the mayor’s office – in an interim position that didn’t really exist – Nicole Capretz led the charge within his administration for what became his landmark achievement during that time, even though it wasn’t passed until Faulconer was in office: the city’s Climate Action Plan. 

The city adopted a plan that said it would half its carbon footprint by 2035 by, among other things, transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy and getting half of people who live near transit to bike, walk or take transit to work by that same year. San Diego basked in national praise from the New York Times and elsewhere.  

This week, though, Capretz – who now runs a nonprofit group that pushes San Diego and other cities to do more within their climate plans – came out as an opponent of the updated version of the same Climate Action Plan that Gloria is now trying to pass. Even though the plan is ramping up its goals – the city would now by 2035 reach “net zero,” when the level of its greenhouse emissions are equal to the level absorbed by the environment (or new technology that removes carbon from the atmosphere) – Capretz and her group urged a “no” vote from a Council committee, because the city lacked a timeline and cost estimates for its commitments. They eventually got on board when city staff agreed to provide that by February. 

Still, it was interesting to hear Capretz, maybe the city’s top salesperson for the climate plan, acknowledge that proponents had made mistakes with the first plan by not setting clear cost and time requirements for each of the policies included in it. 

“We did not insist on an implementation plan for the first Climate Action Plan,” she told our MacKenzie Elmer. “We’re not going to make that mistake again.”  

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Murphy's Logic: Politics trumps public interest | CTV News – CTV News Atlantic



The initial reluctance of governments, federal and provincial, to appoint a public inquiry into the N.S. mass shooting, was difficult to understand. It took the heartfelt pleas of the victims’ families and the fast rising tide of public opinion to make the politicians act.

And now we likely know why they were so reluctant.

Imperfect though it may be, the inquiry eventually appointed has now exposed the obscene political considerations that were already at play in the days that followed the horror of April 2020.

The evidence reveals that political leaders, who should have been overwhelmed only with grief and concern for the trauma and misery wrought by a madman, instead seemed to seize an overwhelming opportunity to advance their own partisan interests in toughening gun control.

There is reason to believe the PM or his people, certainly his Ministers, were attempting to dictate, manipulate or at least influence parts of the RCMP the narrative. That’s unacceptable, a brazen display of politics put ahead of public interest, moreover, it’s heartless.

The Commissioner of the RCMP should not have been making promises to her political masters about the release of information about the sort of weapons used by the shooter but more pointedly, the politicians shouldn’t have been asking for such promises about that or anything else.

The Mass Causality Commission has already exposed many shortcomings on the part of the RCMP.

The force’s politically charged relationship with the government is yet another fault, yet another reason to demand changes in the way the RCMP operates.

The arrogance laid bare by the Trudeau government’s apparent willingness to interfere, to capitalize on the timing of a tragedy for crass political advantage, also suggests it may also be time to change the government.


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